By David Dell
PORT HURON- Immediately following the National Anthem at Friday night’s Prowler Game, game announcer Austin Dunn proclaimed on behalf of the team and a very grateful crowd of faithful fans, 15 April 2022 to be Betty Vargo Night.
Betty Vargo was surprised by the attention she received which started with a personalized video proclamation by nationally known Mike “Doc” Emerick. Doc started his broadcast career in hockey doing the play-by-play of the Port Huron Flags in the former International Hockey League. The National Hockey League Hall of Famer was video projected on the upper West end wall. Following the video, Vargo performed the ceremonial puck drop between the team’s two captains and received hugs from them both. Following the puck drop, the Prowler’s Assistant Captains brought a bouquet of flowers and more hugs. John Baunoch the Supervisor of Officials presented a plaque with the logos and names of the professional hockey teams she has worked, primarily as the Penalty Time Keeper and Game Time Keeper. It wasn’t to end there. Port Huron Mayor Pauline Repp read a City Proclamation bringing attention to the many years of service Vargo has given to not only the pro hockey but International Silver Stick, Port Huron Minor Hockey Association, and all of the Recreational Basketball and Softball leagues that take place in town. It was quite a night with a dozen or so family members in attendance to witness the festivities.
The excitement of the evening kept right on going, in the first period of the game where the Prowlers skated fast, hit hard, and chased the puck and the Columbus River Dragons with an energy not seen on too many occasions. Hunter Bersani put the visitors down a man with a Hooking call at the 1:23 mark but the Prowlers were unable to produce much on the power play, managing three shots. Zachary Frescura picked up a Slashing minor at 7:22 and Austin Daae made it 1-0 Columbus with just 8 seconds left with the man advantage. Jagger Williamson and Ian White picked up the assists as the puck was passed back and forth from the edges of the ice. Sam Marit would pick up an Unsportsmanlike penalty at 9:55, apparently for vociferous chirping, having seen nothing else to warrant the call. Port Huron killed this penalty off while giving up a pair of shots, easily stopped by Cory Simons. Port Huron got the next man advantage at 15:57 when Columbus’s Bailey McBurnie would be called for Delay of Game. With both teams scrambling for control of the puck, about 8 feet to the right-front of him, he very deliberately hooked his shoulder under the goal’s crossbar and stood up dislodging the net from its pegs. In his frustration for getting caught, he drew an Unsportsmanlike minor to accompany it. Dalton Jay managed the last two shots of the period well after the 4-minute power play ended. Dante Sufferdini would pick up a Slashing minor right at the horn, to put Port Huron on the penalty kill right off the bat for frame two.
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After the intermission, Cory Simons kept the River Dragons out of the goal while short-handed and Stavros Soilis lit the lamp behind McBurnie three seconds after the penalty kill ended, to tie the game at 1 apiece. Gino Mini got a toe on a shot towards the Port Huron goal deflecting the puck up to Zachary Frescura. Frescura with Soilis raced up ice in a two on one with Mini trailing. Frescura made a centering pass that Soilis deflected on the shaft of his stick to find twine on McBurnie’s stick side. Austin Fetterly got called for Hooking at 4:31 and the two teams would spend most of the penalty attempting passes and getting banged around. Joseph Smith put Columbus back on top with a goal from Alex Storjohann and Brad Nolan at 8:01. Storjohann and Nolan were in on a two on one when Storjohann dropped the puck for Smith who fired a rocket from the left-wing face-off circle, beating Simons glove side. At the mid-period Media Time out, Richard Shipman came in in relief of Simons as part of the Prowler’s game plan. Expect Joe Noonan to get the start tomorrow night against these same River Dragons. Shipman was nearly perfect in the last half of the period. Dalton Jay was called on another phantom Hooking call at 16:26 deep behind the Columbus goal followed by Cade Lambdin at 17:54 who added a High Stick minor to that of Jay’s. Austin Daae put Columbus up by two, right as Jay’s penalty expired but still on the power play. After two, the River Dragons led in shots on goal, 14-8.
The Prowlers would go on a tear in the first half of the third period, getting eight good shots on goal to the River Dragons’ three but had nothing to show for it. At 17:47 Shipman headed to the Port Huron bench for the extra attacker but it was in vain. Columbus’ Josh Pietrantonio had a wide-open and empty net to seal the deal 4-1 in favor of the visitors at 18:50. Shipman would again leave the ice at 19:52 but the Prowlers were unable to capitalize.
With the Prowlers’ playoff opponent still to be determined Columbus will bring the season to an end Saturday night when local restauranteur, Casey Harris will be making his return to the ice. Harris who owns Casey’s Pizza and Subs in Port Huron played for the Port Huron Border Cats from 2003 to 2005 in the United Hockey League.